St Joseph's Seminary, Lancashire
Photographed in 2014 with fellow explorer David [Scrappy NW]....this was a location which I had wanted to photograph for years until the time came to go inside. Entry was fraught with danger but worth the effort to see this vast architectural monolith.
The decay was minimal in some areas yet more extensive in others'. As I write this report in 2022, the decay is far more extreme with sections of the interior out of bounds due to collapsed walls and floors.
Despite various plans to convert this Grade II building, nothing has ever come to fruition and a once beautiful building seems to have a very bleak future indeed.
Grade II St Joseph's College was founded in 1880 by Bishop Bernard O'Reilly to be the Seminary serving the North West of England. On St. Joseph’s Day, 19 March 1880 Dr. O’Reilly blessed and laid the foundation stone of the new college.
The Liverpool Mercury dated 19 April 1880 gives an account of this event:
In the presence of several thousand persons from all parts of Lancashire, the Right Rev. Dr. O’Reilly, Roman Catholic Bishop of Liverpool, blessed and laid, yesterday, the foundation stone of St. Joseph’s Seminary, an institution designed for the education of priests for the diocese under his pastoral care. This is a project which Dr. O’ Reilly has cherished since his accession to the episcopate.
The college was formally opened in 1883.
South Wing from the Quadrangle -1930.
St Joseph's, usually referred to by its students simply as 'Upholland', was one of two main seminaries serving the north of England. Upholland served the northwest and Ushaw College served the northeast. For many years, each of these institutions housed both a junior (minor) and a senior (major) seminary. The junior seminaries provided a secondary education in a semi-monastic environment to boys aged 11–18 who wished to pursue the priesthood, while the senior seminaries trained adult candidates, mostly aged between 18 and 24, in philosophy and theology, preparing them for the priesthood.
Although Upholland flourished until the 1960s, the rapidly changing social climate in that decade led to a sharp drop in enrolment. In the early 1970s, the northern bishops decided to consolidate the activities of Upholland and Ushaw; from 1972 all junior seminarians in the north attended Upholland, and from 1975 all senior seminarians attended Ushaw. Even as the sole junior seminary for the north of England, however, Upholland continued to suffer a decline in numbers, and by the 1980s it was no longer described as a traditional junior seminary but as a 'boarding school for boys considering a vocation'.
In 1986, the total number of students was down to 82, of whom only 54 were Church students, and it was no longer considered viable to educate them on the premises. From 1987, the remaining students continued to live at Upholland but for classes attended St John Rigby College in nearby Orrell, an arrangement that continued until the last of these students left Up Holland in 1992.
This large and impressive three storey complex of gothic sandstone buildings, reportedly sits at the geographic centre of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Liverpool and bears witness to a time when many young men wanted to train to become priests. Numbers dramatically declined after the 1960s and the seminary became a boarding school in the 1980s for boys considering a vocation. Alumni reportedly include the comedians Tom O'Connor and Johnny Vegas.
The buildings closed in the early 1990s and have been slowly decaying ever since